I remember my first day on the job clearly, like it was yesterday. I also recall how at the time everything seemed as clear as mud.
In the beginning I had no idea what to really expect from a career in agency recruitment. I’d heard all the great things about the industry, from the great people to the perks of being out and about; the pints-a-plenty; the thrill of a new deal; the satisfaction of fulfilling an important client brief; the happiness in helping someone bag their dream role. Oh, and I’d also heard a thing or two about the generous financial incentives (and company trips). It sounded incredible, but I’d also heard about the bad stuff too, from the long hours to the endless amounts of time spent on the phone; the knock backs and industry competitiveness.
The first few months really were a baptism of fire. It didn’t take long before my eager and open mind was completely jam-packed with new terminology, processes, a hundred-odd colleague names, lists of current and prospective clients, candidate databases and portals full of jobs I didn’t really understand (yet). I felt positively overwhelmed to say the least. Luckily I had a really supportive and inspirational team around me to tell me everything was going to be okay, but still, until that day came when I’d found my feet and made my first placement, I couldn’t help but fear failing!
If I was that new starter again, here are the 10 things I would whisper into my own ear to make my life easier:
1. Take your time
A new job is always stressful and you’re not expected to pick things up in an instant. Learning takes time and mastering something takes even longer. Don’t worry about whether you’re ‘getting it’ quickly enough, or churning out quality results from the get-go. If you don’t allow yourself time to let things sink in and learn the ins and outs of the role properly, you’ll end up cutting corners, making mistakes and working yourself up into a stressful lather. Let yourself learn good habits from the beginning and let your speed increase with time; you don’t need to be a bull at a gate.
2. Make the call
If you put it off, it’ll only get more daunting. Whether it’s the first candidate call or the first client call, it doesn’t matter. If your manager has entrusted you with giving it a go, take it as a stamp of approval to give it your best shot. The worst thing that can happen, is that you lose your words or feel flustered and stuck if you’re put on the spot. Alas! You can keep on using the excuse, “I’m sorry, I’m new – please forgive me, let me check with one of my colleagues,” for as long as you need. Calls get easier the more you make, and talking to people in your industry is the best way to learn first-hand about the industry you’re recruiting in. Straight from the horse’s mouth.
3. Ask the question
If you don’t ask the question, you won’t get the answer you want. I’m a big believer in trying to work things out for yourself first, but if you find yourself at a stumbling block, don’t waste time by fretting or making matters worse by making the wrong decision. If you have a great manager, they’ll tell you that “no question is a stupid question”, so take their word for it! Even if it is, who cares? You’re just a newbie, so milk it if you need to.
4. Don’t slack on admin
Having good administrative processes will prove to hugely underpin your success as a 360-degree consultant. When you first start out, it’s hard to appreciate the importance of recording your calls (in great detail) and creating follow ups and reminders for yourself. CRM systems are designed to make your life easier in the long run, so getting to know the one you’ll be using will prove absolutely vital to your success. Sure you might remember your first 5 calls pretty well, but 2 weeks down the track you would have made hundreds of calls and sent bucket loads of emails, and it will be one big blur. It’s also important to keep on top of admin even when you’re busy and have a million and one deliverables; scrounging for contact details you knew you had once and scratching your head to remember information is a huge waste of time, and means things will probably slip through the cracks, like a deal!!
5. Take people up on their offer to help
If you’re working for a profitable agency, you are without doubt surrounded by recruitment legends and experts who’ve talked the talk and walked the walk. Grab five minutes with your colleagues to ask advice. Each person will have their own way of doing things, and at such an early stage of your career, the best thing you can do is learn as many tips as possible, and decide for yourself (through trial and error) what works best for you. If your management team offers lunch time training sessions, or one on one excellence coaching, don’t view it like extra work, but a way to learn from the best and improve on your own skills.
6. Go to the work drinks, but don’t be that person
Feeling part of the group and having friends in the office helps to make the office a friendly, comfortable place to be. Socialising with colleagues will give you a better understand of the business, will strengthen your internal network and will allow you to debrief stresses with likeminded people who are in the same boat as you. It’s just really important not to drink too much, and be the one who gets super messy and embarrassing. Throwing yourself at a colleague, being sick in the gutter outside the office or revealing too much information about yourself… this is what you want to avoid, so you don’t have to do a walk of shame into the office the next day wearing your new loose-unit reputation.
7. Take your lunch break
When you work long days, it’s important to make your hours as productive as possible. I used to get fuzzy brain late in the afternoon something chronic, before I started taking my lunch break. When you’ve got a lot to do, taking time to get some fresh air or go for a walk can seem like a huge waste of half an hour, but it will actually revive you and make you way more alert for the rest of the day. Without a doubt you will come back to the office with a fresh perspective.
8. You don’t have to be an industry expert
Your strengths lie in your people and sales skills; you do not have to be an expert in everything related to your industry straight away. Sure, the more subject matter knowledge and understanding of the roles you have, the better, but don’t worry about mastering the industry lingo, worry about matching people to your client’s brief, and the rest will come with time.
9. Get used to BD all day, every day
Always ask questions, dig for new information and chase leads to bring your business forward. Setting aside specific time for business development is a great idea, but only if you remember to practice it throughout everything else you do. I was often guilty of focussing too much on giving my current clients a great service, and delivering well to live roles, at the expense of all business development. Spreading your eggs across a number of baskets means that if you’re left high and dry by a client or candidate, you’re never completely out of work.
10. Start early or leave late, never both
Whether or not you work overtime is completely up to you. In recruitment, you only get out what you put in, so sometimes you’re tempted to work longer hours to maximise your chances at making a fee. My best advice is to pick one; either start early or leave late, but never both. It’s important to give yourself time to recover and relax each day, enjoying life outside of work. Stretching your day out at both ends might make you feel like you’re the most dedicated consultant in the world, but really, you’re probably setting yourself up to burn out!
Don’t let yourself run out of steam in the overwhelming early days. You’ve got your whole career ahead of you.